The lithospheric and sublithospheric processes associated with the transition from continental to oceanic magmatism during continental rifting are poorly understood, but may be investigated in the central Main Ethiopian Rift (MER) using Quaternary xenolith-bearing basalts. Explosive eruptions in the Debre Zeyit (Bishoftu) and Butajira regions, offset 20 km to the west of the contemporaneous main rift axis, host Al-augite, norite and lherzolite xenoliths, xenocrysts and megacrysts. Al-augite xenoliths and megacrysts derived from pressures up to 10 kb are the dominant inclusion in these recent basalts, which were generated as small degree partial melts of fertile peridotite between 15 and 25 kb. Neither the xenoliths nor the host basalts exhibit signs of carbonatitic or hydrous (amphibole + phlogopite) metasomatism, suggesting that infiltration of silicate melts resulting in pervasive Al-augite dyking/veining dominates the regional lithospheric mantle. Recent geophysical evidence has indicated that such veining/dyking is pervasive and segmented, supporting the connection of these Al-augite dykes/veins to the formation of a proto ridge axis. Al-augite xenoliths and megacrysts have been reported in other continental rift settings, suggesting that silicate melt metasomatism resulting in Al-augite dykes/veins is a fundamental processes attendant to continental rift development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology